Monday, December 10, 2007

Disability Advice Online

I came across a news article that discussed both social security retirement and social security disability, both of which are social insurance programs that cover individuals who have become insured for coverage via their years of work activity. The article was fairly helpful and directed individuals to the SSA site. The reporter advocated use of the SSA site, stating that it sufficiently informed claimants and potential claimants regarding the disability determination process and regarding the filing of claims online.

I have a couple of things to say about this. The main problem with the SSA website is that it does not actually give individuals any degree of insight as to how long their claim may take, or inform them of just how likely they are to be denied. I find this to be something of a disservice, particulary as there are many tens of thousands of Americans filing for disability with the notion that a claim will be resolved in just a matter of weeks.

In actuality, it doesn't work out that way for most claimants. The good news, of course, is that 30 percent of all individuals who file for disability will be approved on a disability application. However, the flip side to that is that seventy percent will be denied disability benefits and for them the process will typically go like this:

1. Following the denial of their initial claim, they may submit their first appeal, known as a request for reconsideration. The reconsideration typically becomes a rubber-stamping of the initial claim denial. Meaning that most reconsiderations will be denied (actually about 85 percent of them are). How long does a reconsideration take? Sometimes just a few weeks, and sometimes a few months. But either way, this rather useless part of the appeal process consumes valuable time.

2. Following a disability denial at the reconsideration stage, a claimant who has been denied disability may request a hearing before an administrative law. At such a hearing, they will most likely have their best chance of winning disability benefits. However, it may take them as long as two years to actually get to a hearing. And, in the meantime, many will have lost their homes or declared bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, this is the type of information that SSA does not disclose on its site. And, granted, it would be depressing to post. However, I've always believed that disability claimants are better armed for decision-making when they have a clear idea of what may lie ahead for them after filing for social security disability or SSI.

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